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Malaria against malaria: A pre-existing malaria infection can prevent a second infection
Date:5/15/2011

A team of researchers have found that pre-existing malaria prevents secondary infection by another Plasmodium strain, the parasite responsible for malaria, by restricting iron availability in the liver of the host. This discovery will be published this Sunday, May 15, in Nature Medicine and has important implications for the management and prevention of malaria, a condition which affects millions of individuals worldwide.

The study was developed by the team led by researcher Maria M. Mota at Instituto de Medicina Molecular in Lisbon, Portugal, in collaboration with researchers at the Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine and Oxford University; and was funded by the Portuguese Fundao para a Cincia e Tecnologia, European Science Foundation and Medical Research Council, UK.

In this current study, the researchers focused at how malaria parasites developed in both the liver and in red blood cells and analysed patterns of infection in mice, looking in particular at cases of 'superinfection', in which an individual already infected with malaria is later bitten by a second infected mosquito. An individual in a high risk area can be bitten by hundreds of malaria-infected mosquitoes per year, making the issue of superinfection highly relevant. The study reveals for the first time the crucial role of iron in the development of multiple malarial infections, which has strong implications for iron supplementation used to combat anaemia in malaria-endemic regions.

After a mosquito bite, malaria parasites first travel to the liver, multiply, then escape and invade red blood cells. It was previously understood that parasites in both the liver and in blood need iron in order to grow. This new study shows that a second mosquito bite of an individual, already carrying blood parasites, does not lead to a full-blown second infection. The superinfection is blocked in the liver by the first infection. This protective effect is due to the blood pa
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Contact: Marta Agostinho
marta-elisa@fm.ul.pt
351-918-486-058
Instituto de Medicina Molecular
Source:Eurekalert

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